Picture if you will - Posy, head in arms on the kitchen table, sobbing, 'I hate you, I HATE you!', Rosy's friends reportedly labelling me a 'monster', and The Girl, with her back to the pantry, wild-eyed, clutching her cook books.
What has Jo done this time? You may well ask. Apparently it is child abuse. I banned sugar.
I have been reading all the books, trawling through all the websites, even read the World Health Organisation guidelines (yawn). I think we are some of the healthiest eaters I know. We cook everything from real, actual, raw, local, often organic food. We don't buy take away or processed food, other than the odd jar of mayonnaise, curry paste, or seaweed rice crackers, the occasional muesli bar or box of cereal. And yet... and yet... there was still too much sugar in our diet. WHO guidelines recommend no more than 6 teaspoons for women, 3-4 teaspoons for children per day. We don't need any at all of course. In fact, apart from honey, most of our ancestors didn't start eating sugar at all until about 250 years ago. That is eight short generations for our bodies to adapt to a foodstuff that interrupts and plays havoc with every bodily system it comes in contact with. Hormones, appetite control, energy levels, fat metabolism, brain activity - you name it, sugar will mess with it.
And so here we are, with me trying to encourage healthy eating, but at the same time baking cookies, cakes, desserts, jams, chutneys, delicious home-made chocolate syrup.. you know, because I love my kids, want them to have happy home-cooked food memories... want to set them up to gain weight, not concentrate at school, and use sugary treats as an emotional comfort crutch?!?
So I banned sugar. For a month. Just to see if it would kill us (spoiler alert - we are not dead yet). It has been two weeks. While I was on a roll, being evil monster mother of the year, I also banned milk as a beverage, and bread as a daily food. I did this because Posy was beginning to subsist on just those two foods, and I want us all to eat a LOT more vegetables and decent protein. She gets cheese sticks (cut from an actual real cheese block with my own fair hands) and local nothing-added-but-actual-fruit yoghurt, but only after she has eaten a fruit and a vegetable. Oh, I am mean.
But not unreasonable. I know I can't police what the girls eat outside the house, so just as an exercise, I added up all the sugary treats I KNOW they have eaten in the last week (who knows what else they haven't confessed!). So, from last Thursday until now - The Girl's Biology and Chemistry classes have a 'bring a cake' roster for the last lesson every fortnight, which means (at least) one slice of cake every Friday. Sunday, The Man took us out for lunch at a local cafe. We didn't have dessert, but the girls had iced chocolates, and Posy had organic raspberry fizz, full of lovely organic sugar, quite probably more than her 3tsp/day allowance (a can of soft drink contains 5-6 tsps sugar). Monday Posy brought home a lollipop she had won in her class at school for being awfully good at something (I forget what, I am a bad mother, but we already know that). Tuesday, Posy's friend's birthday, she brings mini-Malteser packets for everyone in the class, and also a party bag full of lollies for Posy, who missed the party because she was sick on Saturday. Rosy has her Food Technology class (fancy name for plain old Home Ec), and brings home a plate of M&M cookies. We all have one for afternoon tea, and one goes in the girls' lunchboxes next day. Wednesday, Rosy has a class end-of-term party, and Posy dances out of her flute lesson with a chocolate frog 'because she worked so hard' (music teacher code for, 'I love all my students dearly, but I am so grateful to see the back of you all for two weeks, here's to the holidays, now where is my armchair and that nice bottle of red?'). And here we are at Thursday, and The Girl has escaped to Sydney on a school art trip no doubt determined not to let a single grain of sugar pass her lips (!!), and it is the last day of school for Rosy, so possibly more tired teachers will be parting with sugary tokens of gratitude, and same for Posy tomorrow, all of which means.....
.....even if I never bake another cookie or buy another gram of organic, fairly traded sugar EVER, the children will probably exceed their WHO guideline daily intake of sugar several days a week, mostly from those institutes of learning which put so much emphasis on healthy eating. Ha. So a) don't feel too sorry for them, especially if they are whining in your vicinity, and b) this means I never have to bake again.
Ironically, the only day they didn't have sugar from an outside source last week, I broke down and let The Girl cook dessert - chocolate pudding and ice cream - because Daddy was home. It was the first time we have had ice cream in the house for months. So, clearly, I am no purist, and also - how incredibly easy it is to put a 'little' sweetness into our diets, it just creeps in until it is in every meal.
Pre-sugar-ban diet, children
Breakfast - Choice of: Home baked muesli (baked with honey or brown sugar), or weet-bix or plain cereal like cornflakes with honey and milk. Toast with jam (or Nutella for treats!). Fruit toast. Fruit. Yoghurt. Stewed fruit. Glass of milk.
Recess - Home baked treat. Fruit. Popcorn and choc chips. Dried fruit. Crackers. Muesli bar.
Lunch - Salad and Meat Sandwiches, wraps, or home baked rolls and scrolls.
After school snack - Fruit, Home baked goodies, glasses of milk, cereal with honey and milk Cheese and crackers. Popcorn. Dried fruit.
Dinner - Home made, fairly nutritious something with vegetables, lots of pasta and home made bread. Dessert on the weekends. Posy often ate the bare minimum, then snacked on cereal and milk afterwards if no-one caught her.
No sugar diet, children
Breakfast - Choice of: scrambled eggs, boiled eggs. Porridge with stewed fruit and plain yoghurt, or yoghurt with fruit, no added anything else (there is only one local yoghurt sold in only a couple of outlets around town, that doesn't have sugar, or sugar substitutes in it). Rosy usually just eats a banana. Posy sometimes refuses to eat anything at all. Being such a bad mother, I have let her out the door without breakfast occasionally. So far she has not fainted or suddenly started getting Ds in Maths. I do sympathise. I can rarely eat breakfast before 9.30 either.
Recess - Seaweed rice crackers. Fruit. Vegie sticks. Cheese sticks. Pop corn. Limited dried fruit.
Lunch - The Girl, being in Grade 12, and therefore highly privileged, with coveted membership of the Senior Common Room, has access to a microwave, so takes dinner leftovers. Rosy takes dinner leftovers or soup in a thermos, and Posy, creature of habit, takes fried rice with vegies every day in her thermos. Unless there is chicken soup available, but only chicken noodle, not that horrid chicken and vegetable soup, Mummy. Just NO. Sometimes she buys lunch at school when it is chicken soup or Singapore noodles day.
After school snack - Fruit, cheese and crackers, cheese sticks, yoghurt, stewed fruit, dried fruit, vegie sticks and dips. Pop corn. Nuts.
Dinner - Home made, lots of vegies, hardly ever pasta or bread. We have home made potato wedges with soup now, instead of bread, and are getting through a lot more basmati rice than pasta, but really, just eating a lot more vegetables. We may re-instate one dessert a week.
So, tell me lovies. What do you think about this? Am I being too extreme? Does anyone else not eat sugar at home? Yesterday, one of my friends mentioned she was on a high fat, low carb, no sugar diet, and when she heard I'd banned sugar, she was very excited at the thought that she could use peer pressure to introduce the idea to her two girls, same age as Rosy and Posy, so I am afraid I will be even more heartily disliked by small children everywhere soon... help! I need some support!
Next time - a recipe for a successful, no-added sugar muesli bar substitute, based on a recipe sent to me by the lovely Jessie some time ago. Excellent fuel for those after school, pre-hockey training moments..